India-Maldives row: Indian forces to wait for government directions to leave island nation by Mar 15, say sources

Indian defence forces will wait for directives from the government on the issue of withdrawing its presence in the Maldives by March 15 following an announcement on the same by the island nation’s President Mohamed Muizzu, defence sources told

According to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), India currently has 77 Indian soldiers and assets.

The development came amid a diplomatic row that erupted last week after three deputy ministers in Muizzu’s government posted derogatory social media posts against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The three deputy ministers, who were suspended, made disparaging comments against PM Modi for his post on ‘X’ following his visit to Lakshadweep, inferring that it was an attempt to project the Union Territory as an alternative tourist destination to the Maldives.

Ever since Muizzu was elected the Maldivian President last year, there have been tensions in the island nation’s ties with India. Considered to be pro-China, Muizzu had campaigned on an ‘India Out’ campaign.

About a decade ago, India had given Dhruv helicopters and Dornier aircraft for Maldivian capability development. The Indian defence forces take care of these aircraft and train the Maldivian forces there.

Maldives is located next to major shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. This strategic point ensures energy supply for countries like China, Japan and India.

China had started sending its naval ships to the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean a few years ago in the name of anti-piracy operations. Since then, the importance of the Maldives for India has increased further.

Every year, more than two lakh people from India visit the Maldives, which relies mostly on tourism to sustain its economy. According to the Indian High Commission in Male, 2.41 lakh people visited the island nation in 2022 and about two lakh in 2023.

(with inputs from PTI)

Published By:

Prateek Chakraborty

Published On:

Jan 16, 2024

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